Jonathan Whitener, chef of Here’s Looking at You in Koreatown and All Day Baby in Silver Lake, has died at age 36, according to a public report from the Los Angeles County medical examiner. The medical examiner case information states Whitener was reported dead at a residence on February 7, 2024, though no cause of death is currently listed. Eater reached out to Whitener’s business partner Lien Ta, who co-owns the two restaurants, but has not heard back. On February 8, Here’s Looking at You announced on Instagram that it would be closed “due to family reasons.”
Whitener’s globally influenced cooking at Here’s Looking at You, which opened in 2016, received local and national acclaim, with high praise coming from late Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, who wrote of the chef’s “strong flavors, jolts of acidity…and tendency to stuff hints of umami almost everywhere it might conceivably belong.” Ta and Whitener battled to keep the restaurant afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing a temporary closure on July 8, 2020. In June 2021, they worked out an agreement with the landlord to reopen; the restaurant ultimately raised $85,000 of crowdsourced funds and reopened on January 9, 2022. In 2022, current Times critic Bill Addison re-reviewed the restaurant, calling it a “serious win” and one of the city’s “quirkiest, most ambitious havens for modern Angeleno cooking.”
Whitener and Ta opened All Day Baby in Silver Lake in 2019 with American diner-influenced breakfast fare, storied biscuit sandwiches, and thoughtful dinners weaving in the chef’s upbringing. “I used to travel to the South as a kid with my dad in the summer, and the first thing I ever ate was a warm biscuit, and in the middle of it, a piece of fried chicken breast. It’s a food that gives me such a profound connection to an old memory,” Whitener told Eater at the time. Through the first part of the pandemic, All Day Baby opened an outdoor dining patio across the street. In 2022, it debuted a Vietnamese dinner pop-up inside the restaurant called Tet-a-Tet, although the series ended in mid-2023.
Prior to Here’s Looking at You, Whitener was the chef de cuisine of Animal and had cooked at Craft in Century City. His Facebook page also noted three-Michelin-star restaurant Mirazur as a former workplace and that he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2009. Whitener grew up in Huntington Beach.
Update: February 9, 2024, 3:08 p.m.: Here’s Looking at You’s Instagram account posted the following statement on Friday: